Evidence of meeting #24 for Veterans Affairs in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was commemoration.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Captain  N) (Retired) William Woodburn (Chair, Canadian Naval Memorial Trust
Steve Harris  Acting Director, Chief Historian, Directorate of History and Heritage, Department of National Defence
Jean-Guy Soulière  President, National Association of Federal Retirees
Steve Gregory  Operation Husky 2023
Kevin Sammy Sampson  Vice-President, Rwanda Veterans Association of Canada
Wendall Brown  Past Chair, Commander (Retired), Canadian Naval Memorial Trust
Sayward Montague  Director, Advocacy, National Association of Federal Retirees

3:50 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

I call this meeting to order.

Welcome to meeting number 24 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, as is now the norm. Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on October 27, 2020, the committee is resuming its study on a strategy for commemorations in the 21st century.

I'd like to welcome all the witnesses who have taken the time to join us today. I will introduce all of you, and then each of you will have five minutes for opening remarks. I will indicate to you when you have one minute left, but don't panic. You'll have lots of time to to wrap up your remarks. That will be the case throughout the meeting. I apologize in advance for having to interrupt anyone. That is part of the job as chair: to be the official interrupter.

I will introduce everyone.

From the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust, we're joined by Mr. Wendall Brown, past chair, retired commander, and William Woodburn, retired captain, chair of the organization.

Thanks to both of you for being here.

We also have with us, from the Department of National Defence, Dr. Steve Harris, acting director, chief historian, directorate of history and heritage; from the National Association of Federal Retirees, Jean-Guy Soulière, president, and Sayward Montague, director, advocacy; from Operation Husky 2023, Steve Gregory; and, from the Rwanda Veterans Association of Canada, Kevin Sammy Sampson, vice-president.

Thanks to all of you for being here and helping us with this study on commemoration.

I will start us off with Mr. Woodburn.

The next five minutes are all yours, sir.

3:55 p.m.

Captain N) (Retired) William Woodburn (Chair, Canadian Naval Memorial Trust

Mr. Chair, honourable committee members, thank you for the important work you are doing.

My name is Bill Woodburn, and I'm here today with my close colleague and good friend, Mr. Wendall Brown. We are both representing the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust. We are both retired naval officers, and I might add, proud veterans.

The trust is an independent, not-for-profit Canadian charity, operated by volunteers. Our unique mandate is to ensure the long-term preservation of HMCS Sackville throughout the 21st century and beyond, and to honour those who served or continue to serve at sea.

Sackville is the last remaining World War II corvette, and is recognized by the Government of Canada as the Canadian naval memorial and a national historic site.

Every year on the first Sunday in May, we commemorate the Battle of the Atlantic. It was the longest continuous battle of the entire war. According to Sir Winston Churchill, it was the only battle that we could not afford to lose. This was not just about the navy; it was a monumental undertaking to save the free world. It forced our country to transform and grow into an independently industrial nation, holding meaningful voice amongst our allies.

Sackville is not just a historic ship or a naval monument; it is a concrete and enduring symbol of one of the greatest achievements of our nation. I suggest that we would not be sitting here today if not for everything that HMCS Sackville signifies. That is what this ship means to Canada.

More than 4,400 Canadian sailors, airmen and merchant mariners perished during the battle. Our navy would expand from six ships to 373 ships. Of the 269 corvettes built worldwide for the war effort, 123 of them were built here in Canada, in Canadian shipyards found coast to coast.

The global importance of Sackville as the last remaining vessel of its kind was recently confirmed by its appearance, using modern-day technology, in the Netflix film Greyhound, championed by Mr. Tom Hanks.

Canadian corvettes were named after Canadian towns and cities and crewed by men from every province and every walk of life. They suffered an endless mission of convoy duty in the North Atlantic under every imaginable condition. Sackville was there through it all, witnessing the hardships and the horrors endured by Canadians at war at sea. This year marks the 80th anniversary of Sackville's commissioning.

Our trust is made up of approximately 1,000 members, spanning every province, the U.S.A. and Europe. Our membership consists of serving military, veterans and civilians alike. Sackville exists today because of the efforts and dedication of our volunteers.

We are funded primarily through donations and the ongoing support of our members. Each summer we open the ship to visitors on the Halifax waterfront. Sackville has been rated as a top tourist destination in this city for several years now, based on its unique historic and commemorative significance.

However, collaboration truly holds the key to our survival. Without doubt, the strong support of the Royal Canadian Navy has been crucial. More recently, we have partnered with like-minded organizations to help create a maritime heritage district on the Halifax waterfront. In addition, we have established an agreement with the RCN and Heritage Canada to assist with the conservation of the ship, and have benefited from a formal agreement with the Canadian government to help us fund a crucial refit, which I'm pleased to say will be completed within a few days.

As a result, we have given Sackville a new lease on life for the next decade or so by addressing significant deterioration in the hull. However, long-term preservation will eventually require the hull to be completely replaced.

We estimate the cost to be in the order of $12 million. Raising this money will be the main focus of the trust in the years ahead. In doing so, we look forward to working with all three levels of government and will need their support and guidance to achieve this vital goal.

HMCS Sackville represents and is a reminder of what Canadians from all walks of life, from all regions of the country, can do in times of peril. From builders and shipyards, to sailors who served, to families who were so tragically affected, Sackville still resonates as a pillar of our collective national history. We must ensure that legacy endures.

I would add that we would be pleased to invite each and every one of you to visit the Sackville at your convenience, should you ever be in Halifax.

Thank you very much.

4 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much, Mr. Woodburn. I assure you that all of us look forward to a day when that kind of invitation is something we can take you up on.

Up next, we have Dr. Harris, for five minutes, please.

4 p.m.

Dr. Steve Harris Acting Director, Chief Historian, Directorate of History and Heritage, Department of National Defence

Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to speak to you today. I value your work as well.

I'm Dr. Steve Harris, the chief historian and the acting director at the directorate of history and heritage within National Defence, where I have worked for 42 years. I represent the directorate of history and heritage, which is uniquely placed within National Defence to maintain and preserve military history and heritage, as well as to support the Minister of Veterans Affairs in their commemorative activities.

I am also the co-chair of the Minister of Veterans Affairs commemoration advisory group, a position I have held for five years. As such, I come to this discussion of commemoration in the 21st century with a historical lens and a great deal of institutional knowledge on the subject.

While the Department of Veterans Affairs has the mandate to commemorate the service and sacrifice of Canadian sailors, soldiers and aviators in past wars and conflicts, the role of the Department of National Defence is to support VAC's planning and the execution of its commemorative activities, including a long-term strategy for commemoration.

National Defence and the director of history continue to support VAC in its commemoration of those brave Canadians who have served Canada in armed conflict, with particular focus in the past few years on the First World War and Second World War.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to answering your questions.

4 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much, Dr. Harris.

Up next I believe it's Mr. Soulière who will be making opening remarks.

4 p.m.

Jean-Guy Soulière President, National Association of Federal Retirees

Thank you for inviting the National Association of Federal Retirees to speak today. I am joining you from Ottawa, Ontario, the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe peoples.

The National Association of Federal Retirees represents 175,000 members, including 60,000 veterans. It is the largest national advocacy organization representing active and retired members of the federal public service, Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP and retired federally appointed judges, as well as their partners and survivors. We are pleased to be a co-chair and collaborating partner on the Women Veterans Research and Engagement Network, or WREN, which seeks to ensure equitable lifetime outcomes for military and veteran women and men.

My colleague Sayward Montague and I are pleased to speak with you today about the long-term view for commemoration and remembrance of all Canadian veterans.

Canada has been a leader in commemoration and remembrance thanks to the robust programs developed and maintained by Veterans Affairs Canada, both here at home and abroad, and the efforts of veterans organizations, many of them volunteer-run. Commemoration should start with a shared understanding and goal, and we should ask ourselves some questions. Who and what do we commemorate and how? Who and what have we neglected to recognize? Why has that happened? How can commemoration be more inclusive and reflective of those who have served?

Commemoration should reflect what the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP are, from the composition of those forces to their work and the challenges faced by those who have served.

All military occupations were opened to women in 1989. Women today comprise over 16% of the military. There is a goal to have 25% serving by 2026. We know that military women face inequitable health and other outcomes during and after their service. Recent months have been difficult for women veterans with the lived experience of military sexual misconduct and military sexual trauma.

How and whether individuals identify as veterans should be explored more closely. U.S. research has found that military women are less likely than men to self-identify as veterans, which means they may not seek the benefits, services and supports to which they are entitled, and they may be less visible in how we honour those who have served. On the flip side, veteran well-being is positively impacted by recognition. These realities must influence our long-term planning for commemoration. Better understanding the experience, needs and expectations of military and veteran women is important.

The department’s 10-year strategic plan for commemoration will expand the focus of commemorative programming and recognition of all those who have served, and highlight diversity in Canada’s military history, including our role in advancing peace and security globally. The department is committed to GBA+ in commemoration and to ensure that programs, policies and initiatives are unbiased. Veteran women should know what that means.

Veterans Affairs has taken steps to ensure that commemoration better reflects the role of military and veteran women through profiles, interviews, educational materials and a lesson plan. The stories of veteran women are more present in our collective consciousness. The department, through the annual women veterans forums and through other stakeholder relationships, has an opportunity to connect with military and veteran women to explore modern-day commemoration. The government must continue to be accountable for its progress on these goals, and in closing systemic biases and research gaps, which contribute to and include commemoration.

Finally, there is a connection between respect, veteran identity, and commemoration. Respect is as fundamental as ensuring every veteran receives the care, respect and dignity which they deserve and are entitled to following years of service dedicated to Canada.

Issues like institutional betrayal and moral injury contribute to a loss of trust, impact veteran health and well-being and may contribute to whether and how veterans identify as veterans.

Commemoration without those essentials, respect and well-being, will ring hollow. Canada's commemoration plans must reflect the rich diversity of our military and veteran communities, particularly during Veterans Week and Remembrance Day ceremonies. All veterans must see themselves equitably represented at these significant national events.

Engaging women veterans and women veteran organizations in this work is mission critical. Applying the GBA+ lens to commemoration, from Canadians' perceptions of who veterans are, to national or global activities, is the right thing to do.

New ways to mark and honour the contributions of Canada's military and veteran women should be explored including, perhaps, a day of recognition dedicated to military and veteran women.

We owe effective and relevant commemoration to all veterans. This is an opportunity for commemoration to reflect who we, as Canadians, truly are. The story we tell must include the military and veteran women experience, as well as honour their contributions to the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, and to peace and security at home and around the world.

Thank you.

4:05 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much, Mr. Soulière.

Up next is Mr. Gregory for five minutes.

4:10 p.m.

Steve Gregory Operation Husky 2023

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My name is Steve Gregory. I'm a business owner from Montreal and the honorary colonel of the 2nd Field Artillery Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. Before I begin, I need to explain to you why commemorations are so important to me.

In 2006, my then 10-year-old son Erik produced a history project about a specific battle in Sicily. It was very difficult for him to complete. We could find very few resources. Nothing was available that talked about the Canadians in Sicily in 1943. By chance, a year later, I visited a museum in Sicily that was dedicated to the allied landing, and I was disappointed. There was no Canadian exhibit, only a poster and a couple of small artifacts you could fit in a cup. Later that day, I visited our cemetery at Agira, not far away, and the register listed four visitors since the beginning of that year. It was then August 1.

These experiences led me to feel that we had abandoned the memory of our fallen, that we had neglected to honour their sacrifice. It stuck with me as a civilian. Motivated by this perception of injustice, I organized Operation Husky 2013 and 2018. They were large-scale, civilian commemorations in Sicily.

It is with this deep conviction that I share three ongoing projects.

The Walk for Remembrance and Peace is a 325-kilometre marked walking trail along the path of the 1st Canadian Division troops, from the landing at Pachino to Adrano, with an accompanying history book and walking guide. We hope that it engages Sicilians in remembrance and creates an economic engine that sustains their involvement. Imitating the Camino de Santiago, we're hoping that this walk becomes known as the “Canadian Camino”.

The second invites youth from grades 10, 11 and 12 into a conversation about what makes peace possible. It's called the International Forum for Peace, Security and Prosperity. This annual event and student contest will be held online and in Sicily. It brings together high school students and officer cadets with academics to explore the role of our military and the institutions of public order and justice in establishing the basis for a flourishing peace and, ultimately, societal prosperity.

The third, Operation Husky, in 2023 and again in 2028 will commemorate the anniversary of the allied landing in Sicily. Here we'll honour our fallen and celebrate the rebirth of a peaceful, secure and prosperous society. As in past activities, a group of Canadians will walk the 325-kilometre path. It will take us 20 days.

Two strategic imperatives are guiding my team, and I hope they might be helpful to you.

First, we are focusing on engaging and educating our youth. The forum provides a critical link to commemoration in the context of the outcome that so many sacrificed their lives to achieve, and that is peace. In this forum, students can share perspectives, both historical and contemporary, with military officer cadets, academics and civilian leaders from western liberal democracies, who are preparing to fight or who have fought for peace. We're pushing out the contest to over 11,000 Canadian high schools. We're convinced that our youth need to feel they own the commemorative space and are deliberately brought on board as true partners in commemoration events. We must open the door wider to them.

Second, we are collaborating with, and leveraging, civilian organizations at home and abroad. Currently, many produce excellent educational materials, engaging programs and incredible outreach opportunities for youth. In a quick search, you'll find at least seven not-for-profit and private organizations distributing commemorative programs to Canadian high schools, and that's above and beyond what VAC is doing.

Sometimes services overlap and even compete for precious resources. While competition is obviously great for innovation and efficiency, a lack of collaboration can result in confusion and waste. To date, we've partnered with seven collaborative organizations, including: the 3rd Battery of Montreal Artillery, Valour Canada, the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, the Canadian Defence Academy, the Italian Army general staff, the Global Peace Institute and the Institute for Economics and Peace out of Australia.

This emphasis on collaboration is even more important when working overseas. During COVID-19, on November 11 a network of Italian civilians visited many of the 21 cemeteries, laying wreaths on our behalf. These valuable relationships are only possible if Canadians maintain their relationships and don't just show up every five years.

A commemoration strategy for the 21st century that leverages civilian volunteers and public-private partnerships must be deliberate and persistent. Collaboration, coupled with diversity and genuine inclusivity of our youth, should, wherever possible, use local partners to engage our youth and inspire a spirit of remembrance.

My hope is that VAC could play a central role in orchestrating and harnessing these civilian initiatives. There are just so many of them, all great citizens trying to do the right thing.

Thank you.

4:15 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you very much, sir.

Last, but not least, we have Mr. Sampson for five minutes, please.

4:15 p.m.

Kevin Sammy Sampson Vice-President, Rwanda Veterans Association of Canada

Mr. Chair, Ms. Wagantall, and members of this committee, I would like to thank you for the invitation to appear before you today as part of your study on commemoration.

Today I'd like to discuss existing Government of Canada policy that segregates active service veterans into categories and how that applies to commemoration.

To begin with, section 33 of the National Defence Act, which applies to service, and section 31, which applies to active service, segregate veterans into two categories legally. On any given day, roughly 90% to 95% of the military is performing service under normal day-to-day working conditions, while 5% to 10% of the military performs active service for the United Nations, NATO or other arrangements abroad, in hazardous working conditions that usually negate a soldier's charter rights and freedoms. Active service personnel are taking legal direction to perform dangerous tasks from an officer of Canada, and failing to adhere results in charges under the National Defence Act.

Mr. Chair, I would now like to refer you to Veterans Affairs Canada's core policy document 1447, pertaining to wartime and special duty service categories, which further segregates Canadians into two distinct classes for commemoration, and intrinsically, insurance. From my perspective, VAC document 1447 is quite possibly one of the most repulsive policy documents in Canada. Here's why.

The wartime service classification is top tier and has exclusive membership belonging to World War I, World War II and Korean veterans. Wartime service or elite veterans have received the majority of commemorative funding, and along with the RCMP, wartime service veterans receive the Pension Act for their active service injuries, Canada's premier insurance plan. The wartime classification also has all of Canada's Victoria Crosses.

The second category within this repulsive document, document 1447, is special duty, veterans consisting of every United Nations, NATO or other active service mission since 1953. Once again, if veterans had a rewards card, special duty service would be the discount class receiving little to no funding for commemoration over the past 50 years. There are no Victoria Crosses resulting from special duty service. Our injured active service veterans in the discount class receive 40% of the injury insurance that wartime service veterans and the RCMP receive for their active service.

Monsieur Samson, last week you asked a question regarding the Afghanistan war and the challenges faced by one of your constituents. VAC policy document 1447 clearly indicates that Canada does not think Afghanistan was a war or that injured veterans are worthy of equality when it comes to commemoration and injury benefits, but we know that's not true.

Members of Parliament, I ask you to refer to Library of Parliament document BP 303 and Library of Parliament document PRB 00-06 to understand why Afghanistan is not a war in Canadian policy and to learn a great deal about your responsibilities as members of Parliament, under section 32 of the National Defence Act, when government places Canadians on active service.

To be clear, I would like to provide an example. If a Korean War veteran, a member of the RCMP and a Rwanda veteran make a successful claim to Veterans Affairs Canada for PTSD, the Rwanda veteran will receive 40% of the injury benefits that the other active service veterans do. Numbers do not lie. Successive parliaments have not respected or cared for Canada's active service veterans equally. This is in spite of PBO reports and the concern being raised by today's generation of veterans.

As a retired warrant officer, an active service veteran of seven different missions, it's difficult for me to commemorate missions with my head held high when I know that privates and corporals are incapable of making ends meet, and it's simply because of document 1447 from Veterans Affairs.

Bullets, disease, explosions and trauma do not discriminate, but Canada does, and it discriminates against today's special duty service veterans when it comes to commemoration and, intrinsically, injury benefits.

I would recommend that document 1447 be decommissioned and that active service veterans be treated equally as it pertains to commemoration and insurance under the Pension Act. Missions should be named and classified appropriately, resulting in a more effective level of commemoration, care, transparency and accountability for Canadians, veterans and government.

Members of Parliament, I appreciate your work. You do fantastic work, but until Canada starts to look after its injured active service veterans to obtain equality, it's going to be challenging to encourage veterans like me to commemorate missions openly.

Thank you very much for your time today.

4:20 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you, Mr. Sampson.

For the first round of questions, we go to MP Wagantall for six minutes.

4:20 p.m.


Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thank you, all of you, for what you're doing and for your service, as well as the commemoration that you're involved in. It's clearly a passion for all of you, and it means a great deal to me as well.

Hello, Sammy. It's good to see you again.

I am one of the civilians on this team who has found veterans very gracious in the way that they embrace teaching me a great deal about their lives and what they've experienced. Sammy has certainly done that in regard to his service and the role that he plays.

I just want to mention, Sammy, what you indicated. I have it on page 3 of the document you shared. You referred us, as members of this committee, to two documents that the Library of Parliament could provide for us to learn more about our responsibilities and issues around the Afghan war—sorry, the Afghan...not a war. I would like to ask if either our clerk or our analyst would provide that to all of us. It sounds like that's something we could definitely gain from. If that's possible, I would appreciate it.

If you would, Sammy, please explain more about section 32 of the National Defence Act and why you as a veteran feel that this legislation is important to veterans and to commemoration.

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Rwanda Veterans Association of Canada

Kevin Sammy Sampson

Thank you very much for the question, Ms. Wagantall. It's wonderful to see you again too. Thank you very much for the invitation.

In 1994, Rwanda came up. Section 32 of the National Defence Act requires members of Parliament to sit in the House of Commons “within 10 days” for a period of 10 days to discuss openly, transparently and democratically the “active service” mission that Canada is planning to take on. From an accountability perspective, members of Parliament.... I go way back to 1991, when Canada went to the Gulf War. Members of Parliament came to visit us in the Gulf War. They sat and discussed the Gulf War for 10 days to determine whether Canada should or should not participate, but then they also asked questions to ensure a lot of necessities: who's coming, how many units are going to be there, when are they arriving, what's the safety, what's the security and what's the UN chapter and so forth.

Today, the Government of Canada no longer observes section 32, because they do not think it's relevant. I'm not sure how federal law works, but I understand that section 32 is a law, and it does require—it's almost obligatory—that you go and discuss our rights and freedoms under the charter and how they're going to be affected by the active service that Canada is placing us on.

Today, the Liberal government likes to make all of its decisions in secret. The Governor in Council, however, provides the active service legislation, and it's exactly at that point when you are all supposed to sit in the House of Commons for 10 days and discuss it.

Now we've just basically put Europe back on the table, in Latvia, Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic Sea, and I don't think any of you sat for active service legislation to determine whether that's the best thing for Canada or whether that's the best thing for our troops and so forth.

Section 32 is found in BP-303. It talks extensively about it, and I encourage all of you to read it. You're going to find out some very interesting information about your obligations.

4:25 p.m.


Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you for that.

As a veteran, what are your thoughts on how Canada should engage the public on commemoration? I hear a little bit of your angst around that dynamic based on your perceptions in regard to those who have served since the Korean War, and the dynamics there.

What would you like to say to us in that regard?

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Rwanda Veterans Association of Canada

Kevin Sammy Sampson

I would like to say not to recreate the wheel. I would suggest that we look to our partners inside the Commonwealth. Let's talk to Australia, which has a very successful relationship with its veterans. Let's talk to New Zealand. Both of those countries annually hold an event called Anzac Day. What that allows veterans to do is at dawn of one day a year everybody shows up for a commemorative veterans parade. It promotes camaraderie. It promotes healthy commemoration. It promotes a positive relationship with Canadians. You're doing it at dawn. You're not getting in the middle of rush-hour parades, and so forth.

What that does is it allows veterans to come together. I can almost guarantee that today's veterans are not coming together for commemoration unless there's a level of camaraderie involved within that commemoration, because the only thing that's going to get me off my chair are my friends, my buddies, and my brothers and sisters in the military.

If we do something like that, if we start looking at what other countries have created, I think we will save ourselves a lot of time and money. I think we're able to use a lot of good ideas from other countries that would resonate with veterans and Canadians here.

4:25 p.m.


Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Can I ask you about the Afghan memorial? It's in a 10-year plan, and of course, has been taking a very long time to come to fruition. I hear from veterans from that time that this is very important, that they have a place to go to meet each other.

Is that the type of thing you're referring to?

4:25 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

A very brief answer, please.

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Rwanda Veterans Association of Canada

Kevin Sammy Sampson

I actually don't have a comment on that, Ms. Wagantall. I'm not really sure about the commemorative plan for the Afghan war memorial, but I can tell you that to every Afghanistan veteran, it is almost a holy place where we would like to go and commemorate our fallen.

4:25 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you, sir.

Up next for six minutes is MP Fillmore, please.

4:25 p.m.


Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Thanks, Chair, and a tremendous thanks to our witnesses for joining us today. You've each brought a unique and interesting perspective, and I want to say thank you for that.

I have the great privilege of representing Halifax, the home of Canada's east coast navy, the home port, and home to HMCS Sackville, so you won't be surprised if I am going to direct my questions to Captain Woodburn and Commander Brown as we proceed through today.

Wendall, it's nice to see you. We usually see each other at the Battle of the Atlantic event at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. We've been unable to do that two years running now. I look forward to seeing you very soon once we emerge from this malaise that we're all under.

As you know, I've had the privilege many times of being aboard Sackville, including in the war room with the late great Jim Reddy, to hear him wax poetic about the history of Sackville, and its role in Canada's nationhood. It is a remarkable story, and one that absolutely needs to be preserved and maintained. That's really what I want to talk to you about.

I would ask each of you, Captain Woodburn and Commander Brown, to use the time I have for my questions to talk to us about what Sackville needs, and what you feel can and should be done to preserve it, so that its story can live on as the last surviving Canadian corvette.

4:30 p.m.

Wendall Brown Past Chair, Commander (Retired), Canadian Naval Memorial Trust


4:30 p.m.

Capt(N) (Ret'd) William Woodburn

Okay, I'll kick it off, sir. Thank you very much. I thought you might be asking some questions like this.

The first thing, I would say, is assistance by government, particularly for a group like ours, which is quite independent, using things like social media. The COVID crisis has really caused us to jump on board with social media, but it seems to me that with the power and oomph of an organization like Veterans Affairs—not only for us, but for a lot of similar organizations like ours—we could get a lot more bang for our buck out of commemoration, what all these different entities mean to Canadians, and on a more regular basis, as opposed to Remembrance Day or a special event.

I actually went to the Battle of the Atlantic commemoration ceremony this past Sunday. There were six of us there to commemorate and lay a wreath, but typically that is just buzzing with crowds and with the pomp and pageantry of what that battle was all about.

I think we could use help with developing better strategies on how we use social media.

I also thought that incentives to the private sector to help with commemorative initiatives may be a way we could improve what we have. We struggle to get funds together, and it's usually Canadians and the grassroots that are coming out to give us money and help us, because they believe in the cause and what we represent.

The last thing I would probably say is that I am very intrigued by what the U.K. has done with vessels of historic significance like HMS Victory and Warrior. They've turned the national lottery into a system that can help with historical and commemorative, significant items in their country. Both Victory and Warrior have survived because of that. It's a great strategy, but it would take a fair amount of work to move it out from what a lottery looks like today.

Those are some of the ideas that would be helpful, certainly, to us.

Wendall, I don't know if you have anything else you want to add.

4:30 p.m.

Past Chair, Commander (Retired), Canadian Naval Memorial Trust

Wendall Brown

I think those of us who are involved actively with Sackville have two focuses, really, on board. One is the actual preservation of the ship, and the other, as Captain Woodburn said, is bringing it to the public. It's so much more than a static memorial. It's a living memorial where you can get the veterans themselves, or more particularly now, the descendants of veterans coming on board to try to put together some feeling of what their ancestors went through.

This happens on a daily basis, and you have people coming on for very emotional visits, knowing very little, because, as you know, people from World War II were loath to speak about what they went through. They come down now with fragments of information or phrases that their ancestors said, and they try, by going and walking in the footsteps of their ancestors, to piece together what they're seeing.

To keep the ship in perpetuity for that, as Captain Woodburn said, we are going to need a volunteer group. It would take a large sum of money to reskin the ship, put a new hull plate in below the waterline, and we'll have to do that probably within a decade. We need funds for that.

With the electronic age now, we can certainly improve our presentation by having, say, videos of an engine running and showing how the action stations worked, and so on, just to improve our presentation.

4:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Thank you.

I'm sorry that I have to interrupt.

4:35 p.m.


Andy Fillmore Liberal Halifax, NS

Thank you, both.